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A little bit more about Cones and narrowboats


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Here is another from my files. This time a direct competitor to the Hotchkiss Hydraulic Propeller, the predecessor to the Cones. This is the Rees Roturbo system. There were several other similar systems in the 1920s and if I can find them I will add them. Interesting, aren't they?

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Fascinating.  Are any of these amazing inventions still around - in museums, for example?

 

A bit off topic, I admit.  I came across this eccentric method of propelling canal boats.  Needless to say, it never caught on.  The article is from the Edinburgh Evening News, Aughst 1905.

 

GAS-WORKED CANAL BOATS. On the Bridgewater Canal there was a trial yesterday of a new method of propelling barges. It is a very simple system, and if it realised the promoters hope it will work great change the traffic on canals.

Colonel R Wilson Thom  of Southport, has devised plan by which compressed coal gas may be used as the motive force and the chief recommendation of his invention is a reduction of the cost of propulsion by at least one half.

As an example of what he proposes do, he has, with the sanction the Manchester Ship Canal Company, who control the Bridgewater Navigation, fitted up a 60-ton barge with a gas engine.

This engine, with fittings, takes up very little space—only 6.5 feet—at the stern of the vessel. Gas is supplied at the high pressure of 200 lb. per square inch, and it may be as high 600lb. The gas is stored in twelve steel tubes, six on each side of the boat. Each tube is 15 feet length, the diameter of the bore being inches. Colonel Thom estimates that only cubic feet of gas will be needed to drive of 60 tons for one hour at a speed of 4 miles hour.

The initial cost of the gas will be trifling, Another gain is as regards labour. Fewer will be required board. Then there is the advantage of cleanliness and the absence of unpleasant smells, such as accompany oil engines. A further gain is in the matter of weight, for 14 cwt represents the total weight of engine and machinery. A single charge of gas will suffice to work a loaded boat for twelve hours and to propel it fifty miles, with two other barges in its train. It is, intended form a company to bring the method of propulsion into use on our canals, in connection therewith to set up the necessary gas-producing plant at various centres. The by products of gas are expected to yield a considerable sum.

The trial yesterday was quite successful. If the new method succeeds on canals, as it seems likely to do, one may look for its use other directions.

  • Greenie 1
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At the risk of becoming entirely boring on this subject I would just like to try to give some idea of the extent of Cone use. It gives one food for thought, doesn't it, that in the 1930s one man of very uncertain temperament and entirely on his own, managed in one single year to sell his product for installation in the following, some designed entirely by him:

- 110 dwt cargo vessel

- motor canoes on Thames and Wye

- salvage launch  for Sudan Government Railways

-weed cutting boat for Egyptian Government

- stream clearance vessel for Somerset Catchment Board

-inspection launch  for Athy Drainage Board

-inspection launch for Sudan Government

-towing launch for Saigon Port Authority

-houseboat for South Africa

-canal barges for Italy

-river barges for River Ebro, Spain.

- alligator pursuit vessel, Guayayquil, Ecuador

-oyster fishing boat, Florida

-missionary launch, Madagascar

-foreign power gunboat

- cabin cruiser for River Amazon.

- and others besides...

He went on to produce a number of vehicle ferries for use in Africa and India. All sorts of different designs for various purposes. Here for example is a launch which I hope you will agree would make a very pleasant motor yacht to grace any river or broad waterway. It was in fact a Calcutta built launch for the Lighthouse Department , Indian Ministry of Transport. A 36/1 W Cone system was specified in view of the shallowness of some of the waters in which it would have to operate. I quite fancy it, especially the officer's quarters at the front end. Just one of many and diverse designs incorporating the system. But perhaps enough for now.

lighthouse.jpeg

  • Greenie 3
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I do not know how much interest there is in these old systems of propulsion which blossomed from the late 1890s, although the story behind them is in itself interesting.  I will try one more. This is from the Canals and Waterways Journal of 1919 and it shows the strive for innovation resulting from  research carried out during WW1. This is the Kitchen Patent Reversing Rudders system. It was designed specifically with canal and river transport in mind, 'given the narrow winding courses which motor propelled craft have to negotiate'.

" The principle involved is extremely simple as will be easily grasped upon reference to the perspective view in Fig 1 ( see below). The essential parts of the rudder consist of two curved deflectors formed of circular parts of a cylinder, partly enclosing the propeller. Both deflectors are pivoted at the top and bottom on common centres. One of the deflectors is operated by a solid shaft, "A", and the other by a hollow shaft, "B", concentric with the solid shaft. By suitable mechanisms the deflectors or rudders are made to turn together in the same direction or equally in opposite directions. Some of the possible positions are shown in Figs 2 to 8".

There we are. Quite straight forward. 

The illustration shows the system installed in a 'fast Admiralty launch, 50 feet, 150 bhp, with very satisfactory results'. You can see the wheel mechanism for control of the system just to the right of the vessel's wheel.

I hope that that is all quite clear. If not I have another three pages of explanation...

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  • Greenie 4
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There was a nice little launch with the kitchen rudder on it on eBay a while back. It was in a Thames side garden in staines on Thames. Deceased owner had a wonderful boathouse with all sorts of lifting gear and contraptions. 

 

In another life I would have bought the launch. Hopefully it did survive. 

 

 

On 23/03/2024 at 09:22, koukouvagia said:

 

Each tube is 15 feet length, the diameter of the bore being inches. Colonel Thom estimates that only cubic feet of gas will be needed to drive of 60 tons for one hour at a speed of 4 miles hour.

 

Rather non committal on the specifications ! 

Edited by magnetman
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The Kitchen rudder was popular in several RN roles.  There are  previous threads on here.  I think they lasted longest in the Hydrographic survey launches.  Dartmouth had a few., too. 

 

Very manoeuverable system in capable hands , a bugger to learn to drive well.

 

N

 

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I'm probably being thick but despite this and other threads on Hotchkiss cones, I still can't quite figure out the nature of them and how they work. None of the diagrams or written descriptions seem to get to the core of what they do to generate a motive force. 

 

Do the cones move or are they stationary? Is there still a propeller involved? Inside the cones perhaps? Or a spiral like an Archimedes screw perhaps? What IS the mechanism by which they shift water and move the boat? 

 

Thanks for any illumination! 

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Basically the Cone system consists of a four-bladed paddle wheel  set inside a cone-shaped shell. This shell is fixed to the bottom of the boat to make a water-tight seal over a rectangular section cut out of the hull.  Water is drawn into the cone through this cut-out section by the action of the paddles, spun round by them  and thrust out again through the same cut-out section. Most installations consisted of two Coned paddle wheels, driven by gearing from the engine. The Cone shape causes the outward thrust to be greater than the intake. That is water, is chucked out faster than it comes in, creating a vacuum and thus drawing more water in.  Tomorrow I will have a go with the Hotchkiss Hydraulic Propeller, the earlier invention, which will show clearly that they were  really just internal paddle wheels (as against external ones as on the Waverley) encased in a water tight shell. Otherwise of course the boat would sink. That may seem obvious but that was the function of the Cone: to keep the water drawn in by the paddles firmly within the Cone before being ejected out. The seal between the cone and the bottom planks was vital. Ours began to leak in the declining months of our poor boat.

Does this help? It is difficult to envisage how the Cone works unless you have sat on one for hours, as indeed I have. I can find more illustrations if it will help. 

  • Greenie 2
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Bilge pump. 

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2 hours ago, MtB said:

I'm probably being thick but despite this and other threads on Hotchkiss cones, I still can't quite figure out the nature of them and how they work. None of the diagrams or written descriptions seem to get to the core of what they do to generate a motive force. 

 

Do the cones move or are they stationary? Is there still a propeller involved? Inside the cones perhaps? Or a spiral like an Archimedes screw perhaps? What IS the mechanism by which they shift water and move the boat? 

 

Thanks for any illumination! 

 

Try this https://www.britishpathe.com/asset/188966/

 

Until I looked in detail at the drawings and watched this clip, I found it difficult to envisage the passage of water coming in at the narrow end of the cone and then being accelerated and ejected via the wider end of the cone.

Edited by koukouvagia
  • Greenie 3
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Thanks to you both. The film demonstrates why these cone drives are so difficult to describe in words!

 

 

 

So currently it looks to me as though the closest device to a Hotchkiss cone drive that most people are familiar with, would be a centrifugal pump. Higher pressure water at the perimeter of the cone gets directed back into the river or canal, pushing the boat along. 

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56 minutes ago, davidwheeler said:

they were  really just internal paddle wheels

But simple paddle wheels of constant diameter operating in a cylindrical casing, entirely above the bottom of the boat, would just churn up a lot of water but not produce much propulsive force. The key to the Hotchkiss cone must be that water is drawn in at the small end, and the paddle wheel (which I see has slightly curved blades) accelerates the water both along the cone towards the biģ end and out to the larger diameter. Thus water is drawn in at the small end and out at the large end, but using a single hull opening rather than separate intake and outlet openings, as with other water jet propulsion systems. I guess they were normally installed as handed pairs to cancel out any lateral forces.

Simple devices and suitable for shallow water, but I wonder how the overall efficiency compares with a screw propeller outside the hull.

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1 hour ago, David Mack said:

But simple paddle wheels of constant diameter operating in a cylindrical casing, entirely above the bottom of the boat, would just churn up a lot of water but not produce much propulsive force. The key to the Hotchkiss cone must be that water is drawn in at the small end, and the paddle wheel (which I see has slightly curved blades) accelerates the water both along the cone towards the biģ end and out to the larger diameter. Thus water is drawn in at the small end and out at the large end, but using a single hull opening rather than separate intake and outlet openings, as with other water jet propulsion systems. I guess they were normally installed as handed pairs to cancel out any lateral forces.

Simple devices and suitable for shallow water, but I wonder how the overall efficiency compares with a screw propeller outside the hull.

I bet they're less efficient than a screw propeller. There is a new more efficient Sharrow screw propeller available (no tip vortex) but they're horrendously expensive (thousands of pounds?) so I doubt anyone on the canals will use one, even if a suitable one could be obtained in the UK...

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Oh dear. I was grossly oversimplifying the Cone action. My apologies

Is this better? - " If a hollow cone with closed ends, and with one side partially cut away, is held with its axis horizontal and with the cut edges below the surface of a moving fluid, the axis of the cone being at right angles to the direction of flow, an eddy forms, which causes the fluid to flow into the cone at the end nearer the apex and to be discharged at the end nearer the base. The direction of both the inlet and outlet are tangential to the direction of rotation of the fluid and in the same direction. This movement which may be termed an expanding helical flow, is capable of rotating an impeller arranged with its axis coincident with that of the cone. If the impeller is rotated mechanically the same type of flow is set up, the direction depending on the direction of rotation. A powerful reaction is then obtained, which acts on the sides of the cone so that there is a positive pressure on one side and a negative pressure on the other. A form of centrifugal pump is thereby produced , differing from the ordinary type in that it receives fluid at an initial velocity and imparts an additional velocity to a large mass of water with the minimum of frictional loss. "

I hope this now makes the principle of the system entirely clear.

My thanks to Engineering Aug 5 1927 and to Dorset CRO.

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2 hours ago, MtB said:

Thanks to you both. The film demonstrates why these cone drives are so difficult to describe in words!

 

 

 

So currently it looks to me as though the closest device to a Hotchkiss cone drive that most people are familiar with, would be a centrifugal pump. 

 

2 hours ago, magnetman said:

Bilge pump. 

 

2 hours ago, peterboat said:

Very interesting, I do wonder why it wasn't widely adopted?

 

 

It seems to be quite a bit hole to cut in the bottom of the Boat. 

 

Wants to be well sealed. 

 

 

One wonders if any experiments have been done with this system for generating electricity from moving water. 

 

Maybe it is basically a bit inefficient. 

 

Nice to be able to navigate shallow water. 

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1 hour ago, magnetman said:

It seems to be quite a bit hole to cut in the bottom of the Boat. 

 

Wants to be well sealed. 

 

I suspect it all gets quite expensive compared to a stern tube and a propeller and you know what cheapskates most boaters are.

 

I also have my doubts about how it copes with ingestion of a duvet or a sari or the chunks of rotting tree trunk that lurk in the mud.

 

 

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14 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

I suspect it all gets quite expensive compared to a stern tube and a propeller and you know what cheapskates most boaters are.

 

I also have my doubts about how it copes with ingestion of a duvet or a sari or the chunks of rotting tree trunk that lurk in the mud.

 

The same could well apply to the Sharrow prop -- great for an open water boat, but get something wrapped round those looped blades and it would be well-nigh impossible to remove...

 

sharrow.jpg

Edited by IanD
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In case it helps gain a balanced view of the merits or otherwise of the Cone I attach, with luck, a copy of an editorial by the staff of the Motor Boat magazine. Given the state of propulsion methods available at the time, 1927. For what it is worth, and I accept that is little since I am not an engineer, the assessment in the article reflects rather the feelings I have about the system. In shallow water it worked quite well in our boat, and in the 1950s and 60s there was plenty of shallow water on the canal system. And it moved her reasonably easily, albeit slowly, in deeper water, but for that we longed for a propeller. But perhaps that is enough of Cones. Tomorrow I will touch on the Hotchkiss Hydraulic Propeller which was a real disaster for Mr Hotchkiss. Unless you have had enough of him as well.

test.jpeg

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1 hour ago, IanD said:

The same could well apply to the Sharrow prop -- great for an open water boat, but get something wrapped round those looped blades and it would be well-nigh impossible to remove...

 

sharrow.jpg

 

I think that should be re-named the "Mobius Propeller".

 

 

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3 minutes ago, MtB said:

 

I think that should be re-named the "Mobius Propeller".

 

 

Good name, but there's no twist, the outside stays on the outside... 😉 

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Just now, IanD said:

 

Good name, but there's no twist, the outside stays on the outside... 😉 

 

Well it would wouldn't it, as a Mobius wosname only HAS one side! 

 

 

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